New findings in neuroscience have given us unprecedented knowledge about the workings of the brain. Innovative research—much of it based on neuroimaging results—suggests not only treatments for neural disorders but also the possibility of increasingly precise and effective ways to predict, modify, and control behavior. In this book, Robert Blank examines the complex ethical and policy issues raised by our new capabilities of intervention in the brain.
After surveying current knowledge about the brain and describing a wide range of experimental and clinical interventions—from behavior-modifying drugs to neural implants to virtual reality—Blank discusses the political and philosophical implications of these scientific advances. If human individuality is simply a product of a network of manipulable nerve cell connections, and if aggressive behavior is a treatable biochemical condition, what happens to our conceptions of individual responsibility, autonomy, and free will? In light of new neuroscientific possibilities, Blank considers such topics as informed consent, addiction, criminal justice, racism, commercial and military applications of neuroscience research, new ways to define death, and political ideology and partisanship.
Our political and social institutions have not kept pace with the rapid advances in neuroscience. This book shows why the political issues surrounding the application of this new research should be debated before interventions in the brain become routine.
About the Author
Robert H. Blank is Professor of Political Science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Research Scholar at New College of Florida. His books include Brain Policy, Comparative Health Policy (with Viola Burau), and End of Life Decision-Making: A Cross-National Study (coedited with Janna Merrick; MIT Press, 2005).
“Intervention in the Brain is a timely contribution that integrates findings from neuroscience into the realm of public policy. This is a very important topic, and one that merits substantive insight from practitioners who can integrate the work from disparate disciplines. Robert Blank is particularly well-positioned to make this contribution, having essentially invented the field with his previous book Brain Policy.”
—Peter B. Reiner, Professor, National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia
“From the author of the groundbreaking Brain Policy, Robert Blank’s Intervention in the Brain is a well-informed, lucid, and thoroughly engaging discussion of the ethical, social, and political implications of the new neuroscience. It is an essential guide for anyone interested in how intervening in the brain can affect our lives."
—Walter Glannon, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary
“Robert Blank meticulously examines and interprets the political ramifications of advances in neuroscience in a manner that is accessible to lay readers (including non-clinicians, non-scientists, non-lawyers, and non-ethicists) but will also be interesting to others who write and think about issues in neuroethics and neurolaw for professional or academic reasons.”
—Stacey Tovino, Lincy Professor of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
“Robert Blank reminds us that it is imperative to consider the ethical issues surrounding direct brain interventions. We are obligated to think fast. Many patients today with neurologic and psychiatric disease are resistant to current therapies. Such patients may be candidates for recently developed, neuromodulatory techniques, such as deep brain stimulation. Blank’s book is a strong contribution to the ethics discussion.”
—Casey H. Halpern, MD, Chief Resident, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania